Member Spotlight: Tina Geiselbrecht
Tina Geiselbrecht is a Research Scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). She leads the Public Engagement Planning program, a two year old program whose mission is “To advance the practice of public engagement through research and innovation.” Sound familiar?
Texas A&M has the largest university-based transportation research institute in the country. They’re interested in things like pavement markings, traffic operations, pedestrian safety, transportation planning, and policy development, primarily at the state level.
Tina came to TTI with a M.A. in Geography from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University) and a B.A. in Economic Geography from the University of Texas. “My primary focus is on research that agencies and organizations can use to better understand their constituents and customers. We collect quantitative and qualitative data to help agencies develop plans and programs.” Tina is involved in efforts to use innovative techniques and technologies to change how people engage with one another and their communities, and recently looked at how online communities can help policymakers understand what issues are important to their constituents and ask questions to better understand multiple perspectives. “The greatest challenge is to convince sponsors of the return on investment of that level engagement. They want to know that it will garner meaningful engagement and help the community be supportive of the decisions that are made.”
Back to the Future
Some of the projects Tina is involved in may seem futuristic, but in reality they’re not too far down the road.
“We’re looking at connected and automated vehicles, and the transportation infrastructure we would need to put into place to support them, for example, our engineers are working on what pavement markings these vehicles would need on the roadways. The public engagement questions center on things like ‘How do we identify the issues people will have with these new technologies so the engineers can design ways for people to accept them?’ It’s one thing to say we can produce automated vehicles, it’s another to trust them to pick up the kids at school and bring them home. We’re innovating faster than the public can absorb, in transportation and in public engagement, begging the question ‘How do we use technology to facilitate these discussions?’”
Tina joined IAP2 USA when she took the Foundations course in 2012, and the Certification Task Force after having attended the 2013 North American Conference in Salt Lake City. “The conference was wonderfully exciting and invigorating, and I wanted to get more involved!” She joined the Certification Task Force just as it was getting underway.
“I felt like I couldn’t be an effective P2 evaluator without fully understanding both sides of P2. The practitioner side – the people conducting meetings and deciding which tools and techniques will be most effective to reach a particular stakeholder group – and the evaluation side, knowing how well an effort worked and being able to effectively evaluate outcomes. The Certification Program we’ve created focuses on the core competencies that every P2 professional should know.”
Where Do I Start?
“The best advice I have is go to the conference and find ways to get involved. I didn’t know any of the people on the Task Force going in and have developed lasting professional relationships along the way. The conference is rewarding, exciting, and fun, but more than that get involved in a committee or a task force to connect more deeply with people and learn from one another.”